Clint Eastwood, Enzo G. Castellari, Fan Cultures, John Nudge, Jose Terron, Lee Van Cleef, Mario Marsili, Sergio Leone, Spaghetti Western, Spaghetti Westerns, The Big Gundown, The Spaghetti Western Web Board, Westerns
John Nudge, the creator of the Spaghetti Western Web Board, offers a brief history of the first Internet message board to be dedicated to the discussion of Italian Westerns.
In 1998, there were a number of web boards dealing with the people who had been involved in making Spaghetti Westerns – Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone, Lee Van Cleef, et al – but there were none dealing with Spaghetti Westerns in general. In fact, if you tried to discuss anything outside of the dedicated subject matter of these boards you were roundly, and soundly, chastised. After a while I realized that if I wanted to discuss, say, Enzo G. Castellari’s Any Gun Can Play (Vado… l’ammazzo e torno, 1967) or Spaghetti Western filming locations I would have to create my own discussion forum. Thus the Spaghetti Western Web Board came into existence.
At the time it was the only web board where like-minded people could discuss Spaghetti Westerns and the myriad elements that made them such a unique and exciting genre. The rules were simple and were flagged at the top of the board:
“Hola, Amigo! Welcome to the SPAGHETTI WESTERN WEB BOARD. All posts relating to Spaghetti Westerns are welcome, but, please, no cussing, name-calling or eye-gouging . . . No slanderous or deliberate attacks on other people will be tolerated . . . the Marshal and his deputies, have the sole discretion with regard to deleting posts they feel are detrimental to the board . . . Leave your smoking guns at the Marshal’s office or you’ll be asked to leave town.”
Political and religious discussions were permitted but only if they related to the context of individual films (e.g. the Leftist politics of films such as Sergio Sollima’s The Big Gundown [La resa dei conti, 1966] and Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet for the General [Quien sabe?, 1966]). The same went for discussions of race and ethnicity. For the most part,
board members adhered to these guidelines, and they were very good at reporting violations. We became a family of sorts.
Two internationally known experts on the genre, Tom Betts and William Connolly, were among the first board members, and between them they provided the most information and answered the most questions during discussions. Ally Lamaj and Eric Mache from Wild East helped fill in the gaps, and kept us updated on all of their wonderful DVD releases. Raymond Isenberg became our resident expert on not only horses and tack, but old Hollywood Westerns as well. John Crummett also provided old movie information. The late Bill Reynolds kept us up to date on soundtracks and composers, as did Ennio Morricone collector Addie Smith.
In time, many of us became good friends and remain so today. The late Don Bruce sponsored trips to the Spaghetti Western filming locations in Spain and the Golden Boot Awards in Beverly Hills, California. This group of friends eventually came to be called the Leone Mafia, and its members still refer to themselves by that name. We still meet whenever we can today, with Tombstone, Arizona being a favorite rendezvous point. This, as much as anything, is the lasting legacy of the Spaghetti Western Web Board.
The members of the board were creative and productive on a number of levels. Mario Marsili distributed his film C’era una Volta il Western (2003) – which he had made during a recent trip to the Spaghetti Western filming locations in Almeria, Spain – to board members for free, which resulted in several members meeting him in Almeria the following year in order to take part in location hunting trips and further filmmaking endeavors. This trip and subsequent trips resulted in the films Per un Pugno di Sogni (Marsili, 2004), The Making of Per un Pugno di Sogni (Kiral, 2005) and Per Qualche Sogno in Piu (Marsili, 2005).
Don Bruce set up an interactive website that featured his photographs of the filming locations that Sergio Leone used for his Italian Westerns. Other location hunters, such as Yoshi Yasuda, Ray Watts and Captain Douglas, set up websites that featured their photographs of the filming locations that were used by a wide range of other Spaghetti Western directors. Raymond Isenberg also distributed his own film, Once Upon a Time in the Autumn (2006), free to members of the board.
Several New York-based board members met up and attended an Ennio Morricone concert together when the music maestro performed in the locality. Two female board members, Kim August and Derringdo, wrote fan fiction that incorporated well-known Spaghetti Western characters in new adventures. Franco Cleef was an audio-video expert who restored a number of rare Italian Westerns and offered them in English language versions on DVD-Rs to members of the board. Julian Braithwaite would create an image-laden Spaghetti Western calendar each year that members could download and print.
Lee Broughton’s ethnographic research recorded many of the Spaghetti Western Web Board’s creative and participatory activities during 2006-2007 and his findings were presented in the groundbreaking fan cultures article ‘Crossing borders virtual and real: a transnational Internet-based community of Spaghetti Western fans finally meet each other face to face on the wild plains of Almeria, Spain’, which was published in the academic journal Language and Intercultural Communication in 2011.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some of the other long time members who helped make the Spaghetti Western Web Board a success, like Brian Crist, Riek Gladys, Ulrich Bruckner, James Cheney, Phil Mitchell, Ryan Perryman, Steve Saragossi, Michael Reid, Alex Mizuno, Simon Griffin, Johan Kjellstrom, Mike Malloy, Eric Zaldivar, Alison McInnes, Cenk Kiral, Chris Casey and many others. I apologize if I’ve missed someone.
The Spaghetti Western Web Board also had a number of celebrities visiting, with a few becoming regular contributors. Director and Spaghetti Western aficionado Jim Wynorski was the first notable person on the board and his presence was invaluable (and fun). Dan Van Husen and John Dulaney became regulars as well, and Sergio Donati, Aldo Sambrell, Robert Woods and Jack Betts (aka Hunt Powers) showed up occasionally. I have since learned that the board had many famous visitors who either posted under pseudonyms, or who preferred to remain interested observers.
Together we were able to track down the whereabouts of personalities who seemed to have vanished after the Spaghetti Western boom, or who thought that they had been forgotten – Nicoletta Machiavelli, Charles Southwood, Robert Mark (Rod Dana), and others were found to be alive and well at the time and they were often surprised anyone remembered them, let alone cared about their work from decades ago. We also had regular “Shorty sightings”: the bit-part actor who played Shorty in Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, 1966) seemed to be in every other movie we saw, but he eluded identification. That is until his son visited the board to identify the man as Spanish stunt actor Jose Terron.
Over the years we weathered several changes to our domain hosting, a handful of profane trolls and one false claim that the board contained viruses. Today, in 2017, the Spaghetti Western Web Board still exists, but activity there has faded somewhat. It’s now used mostly to list the obituaries of the people who were associated with the genre. Social media and comprehensive Spaghetti Western websites with their own discussion boards have taken over. I still maintain the Spaghetti Western Web Board for nostalgic reasons, and to keep the spam away.
We had one heck of a run, though, going strong for more than a decade and I’m very happy and proud that we were able to do that.
© Copyright 2017 John Nudge.